A couple of weeks ago, in a coaching session with a business writing student, we had a series of interruptions. Over and over, the door behind him would fly open, and a tiny blur of noise and colour would barrel in. My student would pick up his three-year-old son, remove him, and return – until such time as the child escaped and returned.
As I’ve had glimpses like this into people’s lives, I’ve reflected that one of the benefits of the pandemic might be the way managers and leaders see their employees.
Workplace wellness programmes have long tried to hammer home the point that people don’t come to work in a vacuum. The workplace might look like a siloed space, but work and personal personas cannot be separated – it’s a false binary, this idea of work vs. life. The whole employee comes to work, with all of their stresses and worries.
Leaders can no longer ignore that one employee is a single mother struggling to juggle the demands of work with her children, or that another clearly lives in very cramped quarters. Or that still another uses a digital background, because they don’t want to share details of their home life.
Managers and leaders need to take careful note of these circumstances – they are now front and centre. Talk one-to-one – and with sensitivity – to your team members about their challenges, and find a way of working that works. This is not the time for rigidity, for infantilising people, or for insisting they work to your schedule.
Rather take an outcomes-based approach and then leave them to meet their deadlines like the adults they are.